alan.jpgIf you’ve never heard of Alan Weiss and you are in the professional services business, you should look him up.

A prolific thinker, author and consultant, I had the chance to meet Alan several years back and have since attended his Million Dollar Consulting College and joined his mentor program. At a recent mentor summit in San Diego, Alan dispensed some classic “Alanisms,” continuing his efforts to raise the bar. Below are just some of the highlights I captured during the 2-day gatherings:

#1: The Power of the English Language. How you say what you say is critical to the delivery of your intent. I am often mesmerized by seemingly educated and intelligent people who completely fail to articulate their point. And I have found this to be true with frontline staff all the way up to the executive level.

In his opening remarks, Alan asked us who our heroes were. Although many gave broad examples from Gandhi to Ronald Reagan, there were also the usual clichés such as parents and children. Alan explained that heroes are a paradigm. They are exemplary in their valor and the simple notion that it can be done. Asking someone to describe their hero and why highlights the need to be prepared to speak on any topic.

You must be well read on a multitude of subjects and able to identify those who have tackled and succeeded in the very same challenges you are struggling with today.

#2: Always Be Prepared. Did you happen to catch Brittany Spears’ recent “comeback” on the MTV awards? Of particular interest was the camera panning the audience, showing their horrified expressions. They knew it could have been any of them.

Brittany simply didn’t prepare. Not only was her performance lip-synched, but she was “off” in general, lacking her usual engaging dance moves and overall entertainment value. The reactions of the crowd reaffirmed that no one wants to see someone fail.

So, another asset heroes bring to the table is that they highlight, despite insurmountable obstacles, that they have found a way to succeed.

#3: Don’t Establish Relationships Too Quickly. Don’t start establishing relationships without scanning the landscape. Despite all of the positive outcomes of many relationships, there are also some very negative ones such as being aligned with a team that others perceive to be incompetent, incapable, or simply a wrong fit in your organization. Some things look good on paper, but won’t produce any real results.

#4: Never Settle on Musts. When developing your ideal relationship profile, each of us has certain “musts” that are non-negotiable. Like-minded individuals that we find interesting, engaging, and intellectually stimulating are examples.

Never settle on a must. Once you settle and put up with something you dislike, then you are deteriorating the caliber of the relationships you really value.

Conversely, “wants” are the “nice to haves.” For example, “I want someone who is more politically active, someone with a stronger finance background, someone more well traveled, but I must have people who are ethical, who will help me grow personally and professionally, and who have a deep sense of integrity.”

#5: Self Confidence Mastery. Outward appearances of confidence are just that. Internal self-esteem and confidence will carry a far greater impact on the long-term viability of your business relationships than any outside appearances.

Low self-esteem often masks talent and doesn’t allow you to take the risks that you should. A litmus test of what’s inside a person is how they react to outside stimuli. Do their values or perspectives change with the direction of the wind or are they steadfast in their beliefs? Are they willing to offer a contrary point of view? Those who are afraid to rock the boat will only build a culture and environment of mediocrity. They often lack the confidence to change and improve their situations vs. riding it out until retirement.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Do what you are afraid of and visualize a successful outcome.
  • Focus on winning and not trying to lose. In many football games, for example, it is amazing how many teams who are ahead switch to a “let’s not lose” posture vs. continuing to drive points on the board and end up losing every time.
  • When things don’t go well, look for a cause and not blame. Blame is often unproductive and seldom gets to the root of what happened and why.
  • It is ok to fail, but not ok to fail by doing the same thing twice.
  • Don’t emphasize being liked. People do business with people they respect, not just who they like. Focus on being respected and trusted – not simply liked.
  • Develop a positive support network vs. those who simply wish to commiserate. At all costs, avoid energy drainers – people who have a natural ability for sucking the life out of any positive situation.

Alan also described three critical points related to how you can constantly raise the bar on your abilities, intellect and experiences:

1. Do Superb Work. Aim to become truly extraordinary and create pull-through demands from your market.

2. Market Internally. We often think about marketing as an external medium, but whether you are responsible for a project or initiative, it must also be tactfully and shrewdly marketed internally to gain champions and access to resources.

3. Aim to Create Impact. Make your presence felt and blow your own horn. Otherwise, there is seldom any music.

Remember that there is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is the notion that you can truly help people. Arrogance is the idea that you have nothing new to learn. And smugness is confidence without substance.